Bribing Better Behavior

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I’ve come to the conclusion that my husband and I are terrible at discipline. We had 2 modes, ignoring it or yelling – neither are acceptable, so without realizing it we started something I have coined “Bribing Better Behavior“.

At first it consisted of us (the adults) whining and promising bribes if the girls behaved. “PLEASE just eat your dinner! I‘ll give you anything, just eat!!” or “Get your clothes on and then you can have that organic sugar cereal you love! Please just do it!” Ok it probably wasn’t that bad, but it was a little out of focus.

Obviously we didn’t tell anyone. When asked what parenting technique we used, we’d say “Oh you know, muddling through! Ha Ha” Praying every moment our chatty oldest child wouldn’t blurt out “If I do what I‘m told, they meet my demands.”

Then, like a ray of guiding light, our youngest daughter’s school told us about a technique called “Applied Behavioral Analysis”
Suddenly We’re the Parents Who Have All the Answers! This was perfect! Treasure was already accustom to bribery – Applied Behavior ……. Whatever – That’s how I potty trained her – “you pee there, I’ll give you M&M’s” – worked like a charm!

Of course our little Treasure has trouble understanding language so finding the right bribe has been a little more difficult than with our oldest who just brings out the Toy’s R Us catalog as she calls us in for negotiations.

This does not need to be expensive (when not allowed to get out of hand) I have found anything from a candy bar to tickling at the right moment will do the trick.

Thursday my daughter came home and informed me that for the first time ‘Ever’ she had finished all her “Center Work” for the week – (Wonderful! I‘d love to know how she‘s gotten through 3 years of school without anyone mentioning that!)

Obviously I want her to finish all of her school work in a timely manner (and since she‘s been tested multiple times, we know she is far more than capable), but explaining to a 7 year old that you can’t get into a good college without good grades is pointless.

Here’s the bribe – which I need to run by her teacher, but I’m thinking this will work.
For every day that she finishes her ‘center work’ early she’ll earn a miniature candy bar.
If she finishes her center work on Thursday instead of Friday she’ll earn 2, if she finishes it on Wednesday she’ll earn 3 miniature candy bars.
I explained that she MUST hand in top quality work or she’ll owe ME a few candy bars – we haven’t figured out how that will work yet, she mentioned she wasn’t going to barf any back up – which is agreeable by all parties – however I’m in the process of eating half the bag, so that’s probably the answer.

I have attempted to call it “Earning” For example “You can earn that Littlest Pet Shop toy if I actually see you do your forms correctly all week.”
However, my second grader’s vocabulary is approximately that of a CNN copywriter – we just call it what it is – Bribing Better Behavior.

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  • If she owes you but has none to give you then you just keep the next few you owe her until you’re square.

    I assume by centre work you mean what we here in Australia call homework (or work to be done outside normal school hours)? I don’t understand why this has suddenly become part of the curriculum for under 11s. It never was when I was at school and this hasn’t noticeably harmed my career as a lawyer. There are in fact studies that seem to indicate that homework at this age has no benefits whatsoever, though additional research is probably needed.

    • @Ciara Ballintyne, Center work is done at school, homework is done at home. That I know she’s doing and finishing – early lol
      Today the teacher told me that center work is done pretty much on their own to help teach them responsibility.

  • Sounds pretty brilliant to me! I am all about using my son’s own Halloween candy as his reward!

  • Big fan of bribery. Works on me quite well. Let’s just say my wife knows how to get me to do whatever she wants…

    I think every kid’s different. My son lives only in the moment, so he’s a hard one to bribe because he’s only interested in what he’s going to get, not get or have to deal with RIGHT NOW. It’s getting better now that he’s getting more willing/able to delay gratification.

  • 1,23 Magic is a very good book on behavioral discipline. I personally think if you don’t say no 75 times a day, you aren’t doing your job, but thats me.
    I’m not sure if you have to have a subscription or not, but in the weekend edition of the WSJ, there was a great article on French parenting skills. The main thrust is that they very much emphasize independent play of the children as opposed to the american ‘helicopter parenting’ style. If you can’t open this link, I can send it to you in MS word or something.
    I would be very very hesitant to reward kids with food. Obesity is such an issue in this country, I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking, “oh, I’m sad, I’ll go eat, or I’m happy, lets go splurge” etc… I’ve just known too many people with eating disorders that it scares the crap out of me. But thats me. My biggest parenting philosophy is do whatever works for your family, because everyone is different.

  • “When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.”
    “Only a master of evil, Darth.”

  • What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

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